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Compassion, Curiosity, Discernment, Emotions, Healing, Inner Guidance, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Meditation, Path, Personal Growth, Self-love, Silence, Soul, Support, Transformation, Wisdom

An Inner Knowing

For many months in my previous partnership I struggled. Within me, when I got still and quiet, I knew that my soul had outgrown the relationship. Feeling strongly attached to this person and fearful of losing the comforts and safety of our connection, my heart wasn’t quite ready to let go. If I dropped into intuition there was a clear answer, an answer I avoided and pushed away. Instead, I kept going into my head to find and remind myself of the plentiful reasons to stay. He was kind, gentle, sweet, caring, affectionate, accepting, stable, steady, grounding, responsible, and a good cook (I miss his fish tacos and macrobiotic bowls!).

Even though on a soul level I knew I’d have to leave, my head sought out the insights of my therapist, my mom, and an elder with whom I had bonded. I sought counsel from self-help books and relationship experts. womanwater I took in any advice whether it was targeted to me or about relationships in general. In all of this I was looking for reasons to stay that would be strong enough to overcome the twisting and conflicted feeling inside that told me to move on.

I stayed with him for a year beyond what my inner guidance was telling me. I absolutely do not regret it. Following my intuition early on and ending the relationship when there was real, genuine care and comfort, may have led me to worry that I had not tried hard enough to make things work. The books, the conversations, the resources, and the counseling, all of it brought me to a place of acceptance. I had tried everything, given my all, and could leave the relationship knowing it was the right choice. And I was building a muscle. A muscle of intuitive trust, so next time there will be a recognition, –oh *that*, I know that feeling…that feeling is telling me what is true.

To the tenderhearted, lovelorn, and longing: there’s tons of advice out there, books on relationship rules, and gurus sharing wisdom on love, but it probably won’t do you a bit of good. People told me “stay!” because you can’t get all your needs met from one person. (I agree). People told me “leave!” because you are worthy of someone who really meets your nonnegotiable needs. (I agree). People told me that men aren’t that comfortable communicating about their feelings so I’m expecting too much. (Really disagree!) People told me to go, not to settle — there’s someone out there who wants to share their inner world with you. (I optimistically say, hell yes!) My point is: it didn’t really matter what people said. There were so many conflicting voices and I could find what I wanted to hear, but the only voice that really knew was inner guidance and I wasn’t ready to listen until I was ready to listen. Same with you.

Get still and silent, drop in, there is a knowing…oftentimes the head comes in and rationalizes, argues, and quiets that voice, but, really, truly, there is a knowing–of the next step, the deepest hunger within, your most authentic sunsetsit offering to the world in this moment. When we practice meditation and tune into ourselves, we can build more trust and attunement to inner guidance. Next time, it won’t take me so long to respond to the inner call.

Sending you love wherever you are in your journey. When you listen within and are open to where inner guidance wants to take you then you are in the flow. Yet even when you deny that voice you’re still on the path, and life will pull you into the wave of change even if you resist. Swim with the wave, breathe, love yourself all the way through.

Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Open, Power Within, Relationship, Sacred justice, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

A dream, deferred

It is normal for empathic people to feel emotional fatigue when reading the daily news cycle, or seeing video after video in our social media feed displaying global violence and chaos. Even more, for those who are among the populations who’ve consistently been targets of hate and rage, they may experience vicarious trauma and added fear for their safety in moving around the world. This can take a physical and psychological toll.

Even if we are not in a time of unprecedented violence, as some social historians argue, it sure can feel this way because our exposure to trauma occurs more rapidly and constantly.

girlOne piece of this is attending to the care of our souls and knowing when to take a break from technology and cynicism.

The other truth is somewhat paradoxical to the research that shows that today, more than ever before, we live in safer and more peaceful times overall, as a human community. There, at the same time, *is* a breaking point we are reaching. Someone in my Facebook feed posted this morning’s latest headline of Baton Rouge’s police killing with a comment that “this summer is filled with tragedy.” Tragedy, to be sure. But my first reaction was: No, this summer is filled with neglect. This is what happens when we do not respond to tragedy appropriately.

The Langston Hughes poem came to mind:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

 Or does it explode?

The first instance of neglect comes from the residual economic inequality left over after the Civil Rights Movement’s many successes in extending voting rights and desegregating public spaces and schools. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw that his aims for true equality would not be realized until economic injustice was addressed–it was a campaign against poverty that Dr. King was devoting his life to when assassinated. We’ve chosen to memorialize his dream without ever achieving it. We’ve let his dream fester and sag even while posting inspirational memes with his face all over social media on January 16th, or as a retort to present-day activists.

Secondly, we have never collectively faced our history as a nation. Just as in spirituality, bypassing over pain to get to bliss does not work. We keep thinking we can skip over acknowledgment, apology, and reparations by telling people to “get over” something that has never truly ended or been redressed. Slavery took on more protean forms in the carceral system and engineered ghettoization in our American cities and endemic poverty in rural areas. We need truth and reconciliation. We have to move through the worst of our legacy to get to our best. We cannot keep trying to preserve an image of ourselves as liberal do-gooders or colorblind soldiers of love without facing the reality of the racist and classist systems of power and knowledge that we inherited.

The third act of neglect is when murder after murder is captured on video and nobody is held accountable–no individual, no system, no society.

The final form of neglect I want to address is that we neglect each other, our most powerless here and abroad, when we over-fund the military and under-fund education, healthcare, and education. When our politicians more vociferously protect gun ownership than they do safety and civil rights of the vulnerable, that is neglect.

Terribly, 3 police officers were killed today. (Did your hearts sink so much when, in one July weekend in Chicago, 60 people were shot?). This violence was not promoted, not sanctioned, not perpetuated by activists like Black Lives Matter, despite what the media wants to insinuate. But you know who does promote, sanction, and perpetrate such violence? We ALL do, all of us who choose separation over love, who want to be right more than we want understanding. We ALL do, who allow the structural violence and the unrelenting brutality of poverty and racism to continue without taking a stand for those living in such conditions, and without taking responsibility for helping to create those conditions.

When we show up, valuing all lives–not just the white or the wealthy or the powerful, but the black and brown and poor and disaffected–home by home, neighborhood by neighborhood, then the culture may change. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.

meditationtUntil then, it may not be so surprising that the dream, deferred, will explode.

I want to end this post with 2 pieces you can practice:

1. Tonglen–breathe in the world’s suffering (grief, fear, pain, stress)–on behalf of those hurting, take it on with a deep inhale, breathe out fierce love and compassion and relief to all in pain. Keep going…any positive return you receive from this meditation, breathe it right back out to those who need it, while continuing to breathe in all remaining pain.

2. Show up fully to every interaction with empathy on full-blast, looking out for opportunities to serve and be present for those in need, even in the smallest ways. When things are quiet and you are alone at home–turn that empathy inward, on yourself. Do tears come up? Sadness? Allow life to flow through you while loving all of it, all of you.

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Whole Body

Try a Lot of Tenderness

There we were, standing in his kitchen, just 6 weeks after we ended our 2 years together, when he announced his new romance. “I wanted to let you know that I’m dating someone.” At the moment that my brain processed the words, it felt like something shot into my chest and lodged there, inside my heart. Suddenly, it felt harder to breathe. I went home as soon as I could, to cry, tears that did not come as easily when we broke up, but now flowed. What a reality check: the person who still feels the closest in my world is moving on to become someone else’s closest and is entering the intimacy of her world.

mural-967953_1920

I’ve biked to cafes, walked and talked with warm and thoughtful souls, danced my heart out, snuggled my dog, delighted at frog and bird song, laughed with my best lady friends, practiced French, planned my trip to Paris, and hiked in lush woods along waterways. I’ve watched puppets and b-boys dance, worked myself out into a dripping mess of sweat and endorphins, found a polka dot bikini that fits, and indulged in ice cream. I can forget, when totally absorbed in the present of these joyous and connected moments, the sensation throbbing in my chest. But then, eventually, I am back in my room alone, or quietly walking across town in the rain, or I catch a glimpse of a romantic card at the store, and I feel it. I feel that something wedged into my heart. When I go into arguments about how it shouldn’t be this way, or start questioning how true his love for me ever was, or picture him kissing another, or remember the sweet beginning of our relationship, the pain brightens. I try to catch my breath. I feel it as both a chasm, a bottomless cavity, and as a clamp tightening and closing around my heart.

There is no outer relief. No friend who can make it go away. Nothing out there that can fix the feeling. There is no story I can tell myself to make it better. There is no name-calling, no judgement about him, no critique of the situation, no complaints about how it is too soon, no pettiness about who she might be, that can dissolve that heart-constricting crater. It has nothing to do with him, or her, anyway. It is about the need to be loved, to feel lovable, and this is mine, a human, normal, mine. These are the fears and wounds that our relationships show us–not so that we can demand love from others to feel whole, but so that we may be that love for ourselves. Relief only comes when I move toward that which is causing pain, and then soften around it…to discover that the around it is infinite. That infinite, is who I am. That I am, is loving and open attention.

I sense shallow breathing, choppy air, tight hollowness in my chest, my throat closing, nausea, and what feels like an inner fight, a resistance, trying to push all of it away.

chakra-685024_1280

I stop holding my breath, and let the air flow naturally. I soften…soften around my chest, throat, jaw, gut. I keep softening and allow what is happening to simply be. I stop pushing the sensations away and move my attention outward yet not quite outside of me–I look from just behind my eyes, and feel from behind my heart. I feel into the back of the body, breathing in my 3 dimensions. There is an energetic field extending outward from my physical body. It has eyes and ears and awareness all its own. I shift into this bigger sense of myself: the field of consciousness that surrounds me. Instead of fixating on tight heart, lumped throat, and strained breath, I move my attention up to the top of my head, to the right and left sides of me, to my front and back, then down to the earth, holding my attention on the outer edges of my body. I quietly and curiously notice the many sensations in, on, around me. Tingles atop my head, cool air passing over my face, that bird outside is a high pitched chirp in my right ear, sweat feels slick on skin, and so much space all around me. From the shrinking of fear, grief, confusion, loss and strained breathing, I move out to inhabit that space.

Inhaling deeply, I fall with a relaxed exhale into the awareness that sees and holds all of it. I invite the discomfort to come closer, to show me what it really is. At first I worry that if I give it permission to be, it will grow and consume me. But then I am surprised by the lightness and soothing comfort that arrives when I stop resisting and let it be all that it needs to be. Beyond apparent boundaries of skin, bone, and muscle, beyond my 5’8″ 160 pound frame, there is an endless and expansive me–way more infinite than that crack in my heart. Way more able to love than small, fearful me could have imagined.

You, heart-twisting, lung-pressing, breath-gasping, stomach-dropping tenderness, thank you for bringing me deeper into my life, and inviting me to love more wholeheartedly: him, her, myself, and you, this pain.

I do still feel tender and short of breath at times. The tenderness comes up, catches me and takes my breath, and for a moment I am lost in a story of suffering and loneliness. Then I remember to soften. Again and again, I move into the space around me and soften. It may take days, weeks, or months to move through this, but I am moving through with lovingkindness.

And as I continue to show tenderness towards those tender parts, I also want to encourage the fiery, fierce, and focused parts to keep alive my dreams of creating a life of inspiration, beauty, integrity, and purpose. Indeed, I am already living that life in so many ways, which is why I had to move on from a relationship that felt in conflict with these dreams. Though I may forget and get swept up in my sadness in moments, staying in a story of despair or shutting down in bitterness are not options. As I heal this sense of loss, I will keep my heart open and ready to receive wild, soulful, and romantic possibilities! What about you? Where will you offer yourself space and softness? What happens when you show up for your tender places with a lot of tenderness?

Celebration, Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Gratitude, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Open, Radical Acceptance, Relationship, Transformation, Uncategorized

breaking up *is* hard to do

heartcracking heartcrackingheartcracking

 

 

 

We made it just a month shy of June 6th, what would have been our two year anniversary.

A few months before, I thought we would make it to June…and beyond. I prayed we would. At moments, I could picture a long life together. I wanted to believe it possible.

So much goodness danced between us, that made day to day life happier in many ways. Having a quirky and caring companion to share the mundane with…to laugh and cuddle with. That so much love and goodness was there, made letting go of what was ultimately not the right fit for each of us, that much more painful.

In my hopeful days, I saw a future together, but it was one that depended on my mate showing up differently than he wanted or knew how. I grew tired of striving and forcing, of initiating the long talks that never came to resolution, and I guess he, too, became tired of knowing I wanted more, of not just being able to be himself, to relax and experience ease in relationship.

We stopped and restarted in the winter, tried (briefly) couples counseling. I read relationship books and binged on podcasts about attachment styles and conscious loving. I questioned what were true needs from a primary relationship and what can be fulfilled from friendships and other connections. I wondered, frustrated at myself, how someone could be such a kind and wonderful person but still not be the right partner for me.

I came to a deep knowing that the romance was over, accompanied by fear of losing this wonderful friendship, and frozen with sadness as the dream of our future changed and our journey as partners came to a close. Too frozen to act. I hung and clung on a bit longer, though our connection became more strained and I depended on our therapist to help mediate misunderstanding.

My love for him, and for us, prevailed through all the difficulty, and for me, it was important to put that love in front of everything else, and to have that shape how we forged ahead in moving forward as friends.

I was so grateful he had the courage to end our relationship and so grateful, as well, he was open to being in ritual with me to honor our past, acknowledge the present, and bless the future (and for allowing me to share this here). Inspired partly, by one of the million podcasts I listened to, an interview with author Katherine Woodward Thomas on Neil Sattin’s Relationship Alive (episode 21, for those curious to hear), when she shared her own experience of moving through loss gracefully, in partnership with her now ex-husband. Because they didn’t go into detail about what a closing ceremony might entail, I meditated on how to ritualize our parting. Here’s what I came up with:

Step One: Use sage to cleanse his home  sage

Step Two: Use sage to cleanse one another

Step Three: Sit in silent meditation together 5-10 minutes (we did 7)

Step Four: Express gratitude for the relationship, speak to the gifts and lessons (Also in meditation, I typed up some prayer-like reflections on the purpose of relationship and the how we might find strength in letting go)

Step Five: Say some words to release the relationship and wish for each other’s highest good

Step Six: Light a candle and select 2 scrolls each from a vessel, each with 1 word blessing to mark a new beginning

Step Seven: Back alone in my home, sage to cleanse my living space

The ritual was very healing and love-filled for us both. If you can move back into love enough to remember what brought and bonded the 2 (or more) of you, this is a very beautiful way to say goodbye to the shared romantic vision, and transition into something new.

xoxo

“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty.     I hear your need. I feel your feelings.” -Gandhi

Compassion, Freedom, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering

Freedom from Wanting

Last week in gathering with spiritual friends–2 women with whom I’ve been meeting for 2 years to share in sacred circle (or triangle) about our relationship with meditation, self-awareness, and trans/personal growth–we sat together and followed a guided meditation practice by Sharon Salzberg.

Our group moves through inspirational books together, though our meetings are not strictly book discussions. We open up, reflect, and listen to one another as we grapple with how the questions, quests, and heart lessons in these works land in our everyday lives.

We recently started traveling through life with Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, as our companion. We began our first evening together with this book by listening to a 15 minute lovingkindness practice available on Insight Timer.*

The practice is like most metta meditations: well-wishes and compassion sent first to self and then expanding outward to wider circles of people, creatures, beings–friends who are kind to us, strangers we feel neutral towards, people with whom we have conflict, broader communities of beings and the world of life.

peace

In this focused endeavor of sending love, health, and peace to self, friend, foe, familiar and unfamiliar souls, I noticed something happen. In only 15 minutes i felt a sense of fulfillment, ease, and warmth that had felt out of reach for me all week.  In my ruminating and longing, hours and days before,  in my busy and noisy mind, my worry about the future, desire for different outcomes or pushing away of sadness or loneliness, I’d created a lot of suffering–all rooted in wanting to be happy. And in the simple attention on happiness as it already exists in my own present moment–and sharing that with others–suddenly that suffering was gone. In wanting to be happy, I felt pain. In connecting to happiness and wishing it for others, I felt…happy. It is unbelievably simple. Maybe I can’t metta myself into happiness 24/7, but this provides a tool to heal ourselves and pull us out of thoughts that cause suffering when we are really feeling down or lost.

A simple mantra and a focused heart can cut through such hurtful thoughts about our shortcomings, our failures, our regrets, our fears about the future, and all that ails us in a culture in which shame, self-hate, and self-doubt are so common.

A lovingkindness meditation will be some variation of these metta phrases:

May I be free from harm. May I be happy. May I be healthy. My I feel peace.

May you be free from harm. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you feel peace.

May all beings be free from harm. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings feel peace.

Starting by turning inward, then to specific persons we like and don’t like, and then global communities.

 

Another that I practiced this week:

this is a moment of suffering. suffering is a part of life and all beings suffer.

may i be kind to myself. may all beings feel peace.

Repeating for several minutes (when something is troubling you set a timer and keep cycling through)

it’s an antidote to the wanting and despair that so often fills our minds. may you feel peace!

*Insight Timer an app that is free to download with many excellent offerings and a handy dandy chime timer for meditation.
Awareness of Sensation, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Whole Body

In 2016? Resolve to do more of nothing + more loving.

I’ve long been suspicious of the popular tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. I see a profit-driven mass media stoking people’s fears and insecurities and using marketing tactics that exploit our vulnerability by getting us to feel bad about ourselves and to invest in self-improvement products and memberships. It can amp up the frenzied and fast-paced tendency to seek for satisfaction from external goals or by trying to live up to unrealistic societal ideals of adventure, fitness, balance, or beauty.

On the other hand, there is something inspiring and powerful in the ritual of resolutions. That so many people are focusing energy and attention on intention at the same time, can fuel our own motivation and support us.  How do we set goals that bring us into more of a sense of our own power and wisdom within? How do we trust we are moving at our own perfect pace and keep encouraging ourselves to love ourselves when things are hard or we mess up?

I am totally thrilled to have assembled a group of awesome women to support one another in our goals through my women’s whole wellness group that starts meeting online on January 1st. And I love list-making and box-checking from my to-dos. But the 2 most important tips I want to share for the arrival of 2016 are not about what to do but more about what not to do.

2016open

  1. Do not be hard on yourself! Please be kind, remind…yourself of how much you’ve done, how far you’ve come. Validate your feelings. Cheer yourself on and note successes. Do not use resolutions to beat yourself up, to judge or criticize yourself, compare yourself, or feel like a failure. Discouraging thoughts, harsh judgments when you fall off track do not help–they harm! They do not help motivate or change your behavior for the better. They do not come from a place of love or heart. Anytime you catch yourself in a hateful or mean thought about yourself, your emotions, energy level, progress on your goals, press PAUSE and take 3 deep belly breaths. Put your hand on your heart and offer some supportive and gentle words–to the part that let you down AND the part that is disappointed. The disappointed part has a message and a fear–acknowledge and love it. But remember you are much more likely to meet your goals and live up to your vision when you live from a place of compassion for yourself.
  2. Sit and do nothing. This is a quiet kind of courage–of going against the grain of our culture and the pressure to accomplish lofty, amazing, magical things in the new year. Believe that what needs to happen will happen–and with much more power and clarity behind it when you are moving from a centered and calm body, spirit, mind. It is brave to sit with ourselves quietly–5, 10, 20, 30 minutes a day, because when are just present to our experience without phones, friends, netflix, music we begin to FEEL the extraordinary sensations and emotions that are happening within us. Sometimes these can feel uncomfy, overwhelming, frightening, ungrounding, or giddy. Can you sit and BE and allow with the gentlness of holding a baby. Feel that icky feeling move through you as you would attend to an infant, vulnerable, innocent…maybe the infant is shitting on you and crying and screaming…how do you hold and be with an annoying baby? Curious to know their needs? Understanding their discomfort? Listening for cues of how you can help? Compassion for their suffering? Be with yourself like you would be with a baby. Set a timer. Monday 5 minutes, Tuesday 1o, Wednesday 15, Thursday 20, Friday 25. Can you go up to 30 on the weekend? Breathe, listen, feel, and be.

 

Celebration, grounding, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love, Meditation, Silence, Soul, Transformation, Whole Body, Winter

welcoming winter soulstice

Today, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the darkest can be an invitation into our own dark corners and hidden places. We can shine the light by asking ourselves questions we may have been too busy to consider while caught up in the continuously busy pace of our lives. We can honor the gradual return of the light that begins tomorrow and we can celebrate the gifts and wisdom of what lives in the dark.winter-mood-113325_1920

Here are some ideas for a soul-filled solstice ritual:

Set up a quiet sacred space where you have privacy and carve out time for reflection. Find a cushion or blanket to sit on, a timer, and paper/notebook and pen.

Bring in energies that ground you into your space such as healing stones, crystals, plants, found objects from the earth.

Light some candles. Turn out electric lights. Thank the darkness.

Ask for support, wisdom, and guidance from your highest self, your ancestors, the life and spirit around you.

Sit in meditation for 5-15 minutes, comfortable and relaxed yet awake and engaged.

femJournal on the following questions:

  • Think back to a year ago, in winter, what space were your heart, body, and head in?
  • What were some memorable experiences in the past year and how did they affect your heart, body, head?
  • What space is your head, body, heart in now?
  • What does your head, body, and heart need from you as you move from dark into the light?
  • Pick 3 people–alive or passed–who can support you in life or in spirit, as you move forward. See them with you. Write down what they say to you as you call on them for guidance.

Create an intention moving forward and blow out the candles as you hold this promise to yourself in your heart and mind.

In the coming days, review your intention and meditate daily to bring more power to this solstice ceremony.

Dreams, Intention, Meditation, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Transformation, Wisdom

The Magic of Rebirth in Every Moment

Yesterday, after a trip back from the store and my beau’s house down the street, I walked, distracted by thoughts, towards my stairwell.  I was calling my dog in from the wooded wild that faces my apartment when, in the shadowy dark of evening, perched breathtakingly close to me, was the majestic barred owl.whooo

I stopped in my tracks and snapped out of thinking, overtaken by its quiet, powerful presence. In resplendent stillness, it sat with its enormous eyes fixed–it felt as though–right on me. Suddenly, it swooped over to a branch on a nearby tree and continued its hypnotizing stare. I stood under its watch, immobilized, in awe. A wave of giddy excitement cut through me and I broke my gaze to search out a friend who lives downstairs. I wanted her to come share the moment with me. She is someone who I know loves owls, but mostly my motives were selfish–I wanted someone to affirm and witness the wonder and mystery of the moment with me. In my glee, I didn’t even notice her car’s absence–so, I was to be alone with owl (excepting my dog–who whimpers, growls, and whines at the 3 am hooting that often emerges from the forest, but in its stunning silence, my lil Yoko was oblivious.)

Owls signify many things according to varying traditions, cultures, mythology. While I refrain from using language like “spirit animal,” as it feels like cultural appropriation (often made as a casual and superficial reference out of context from its deep meanings and specific cultural origins of which I am an outsider). However, I do resonate with and sense the personal and beyond-personal symbolism of owls. Intuition, wisdom, clear seeing, and a harbinger of change and death.

Mainstream culture can tend to avoid and even recoil at the reality of death. Death is an ending, and along with grief, disorientation, and loss is also the space to dream, create, and break through to the new, to experience rebirth–in this moment, and the next. When we die to the past we open up and are free from beliefs or identities telling us what we can or can’t do or be.

Each moment is an opportunity to start over. To drop the thoughts, the stories, the patterns that keep us fearful, small, or stuck. Not that we are reborn into a blissed out utopian dimension free from fear or stress or human problems, but we no longer let fear guide us or make for us choices that try to protect and keep us safe, but often limit our power and possibilities. Or when we do, we wake up and get the chance to change course and re-calibrate with compassion for the fear and the mis-steps and with courage for moving through it.

I gave my notice at work nearly 2 weeks ago and am approaching the end of my 3 years of working in social services. But this is the smallest of the changes I need to face. What about stepping into my dreams of what is next? What about believing in my unique voice and contributions? What about cutting the crap out that keeps me procrastinating and delaying bold and big action? What about being brave? What about living as if I already am the strong & soulful woman I imagine I want to be?

For me this means the following:

I,

  • make choices in integrity with who I know I can be–the me who is choosing from Love, not fear, the me who is generous, brave, and lives from inner guidance
  • take spiritual and emotional risks in order to grow, even if it feels scary, hard, and painful
  • take a month off from social media to reconnect to the kinds of modes of connection that sustained + nurtured me pre-2.0 (letters, meditation, walks in the woods, time in person with friends and loved ones)
  • throw myself into my passions and spend time each day doing the work that makes the dream possible
  • stop hiding who I am or making myself smaller or “nicer” to be liked
  • call on owl energy and let it serve as a reminder to stay open to change, to trust intuition, to see beyond what my mind thinks is real or possible

What about you? Do you have a list of things you can start or stop doing NOW to move more into the you whom you dream of being one day in the future? What is dying so that something new can be born within you? What is possible for you in the next moment, if you drop a pattern or an old way of being? What is possible if you live as if you know you are already magnificently brilliant and living your purpose? Each moment is an opportunity to reclaim your magic.

Have a list? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

Autumn, Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Experimentation, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Self-love

Rainy days and Tuesdays

I’ve lost track of how many days it has been since I’ve seen the sun. Overcast and rainy here in Carrboro, North Carolina last week, then more damp grey in Charlottesville, Virginia where I spent a weekend reuniting with friends and the conscious dance community, and  back at home this week and in the 10 day forecast: showers, drizzle, thunder, clouds.

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Even before the rain came, I felt the onset of fall. The change in the air and the light…and my mood. Many people welcome weather that allows for soups, hot cocoa, long sleeves, pants, and boots. I bask in summer light and heat…I play and jump and dance in the luminous and tropical dog days.  Summer is the season that makes my spirit soar. And when autumn arrives, I always crash a bit.

The lack of sun and shorter days bring on a melancholy and a drop in my energy. I come home from work a little bummed. The sky is darkening and I haven’t gotten my daily dose of being outdoors. I feel it in my body as a slowness, a tiredness, a drop, and then my brain, whys and what fors and other existential questions pop and clutter the radio waves of my mind. I can see through their illusory nature…just thoughts, not true, and yet the pull towards going to sleep–literally and figuratively is strong on some somber September and early October days.

I co-lead a fitness group and so I have some pressure in my mind that I should be the exemplary model of staying on top of my workout (6 days a week is my ideal) and should be able to come right home from work and start exercising. I know exercise is good for the brain, so this will help, right? Well, humans are multidimensional and are bodies and brains need different kinds of attention to heal and rediscover our wholeness depending on the moment.

Here are 3 ways I approach my Autumn Inertia and Blues. May these serve you on days you’re feeling low and unmotivated.

  1. Surrender to your resistance. Instead of fighting the feelings and repressing or denying the very real and biological changes that happen when we are exposed to less light and the season’s change, allow yourself to feel what is happening and to honor the natural cycles and rhythms of your body and life. In that surrender, feel into your body and ask: what do i most need right now? What does that tenderness or tiredness want? Stop with the shoulds and instead tap into the needs of the moment–Do I need a bath? a walk? a cry? a nap? tea with a friend? journaling? knitting while watching a funny movie? Be soft and friendly with yourself. Allow yourself to be guided by what you need to do to care for yourself as you allow the feelings to be there…and normalize the feelings. It is normal to feel a change our energy and mood when fall replaces summer. It is normal to need some down time in the transition. Remind yourself of this and allow yourself the rest and comfort you need–without feeling bad about it.
  2. Opposite to emotion action. This is a skill from Marsha Linehan’s brilliant brainchild, a mindfulness and cognitive treatment program known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The dialectic is the embracing of the paradox: I accept myself completely, I embrace how I feel AND I can change my behavior and choose something different. So while we acknowledge that we are not feeling like working out, or going out, or socializing, we choose to do it anyway, as we can see we do not need to be controlled by the whims of ever-changing emotions. We make a choice out to act out of the wisdom that we will feel better through moving around and getting the blood flowing, or by connecting with people, or getting done what we need to do. Feel the resistance and do the thing anyway. You can break it down into smaller steps. You can visualize yourself doing the thing you know you need to do. But then just do it! This may seem contradictory to my previous tip, but it is not. It all starts with allowing what is there to Be, then connecting to your own wisdom to know what it is that feels right for you, case by case.
  3. Embody your resistance. This is an invitation to release whatever stuckness you feel through the body. I have danced and taught Nia for many years, a fitness program I love whose motto is “Through Movement We Find Health.” And if I cannot force myself to get up, lace up my sneakers, and turn on my workout dvd to do mountain climbers and burpees, there is a different way to move, organically, that will both address the need to move for physical health, yes, but also for spiritual and emotional health. Notice the pain and difficult feelings that are present and then move as if you were expressing them through your body. Right where you are, in your room (you can even start seated or lying down) get curious. This mood–sadness, frustration, exhaustion, depletion, resistance: what would it do, how does it move, what does it look like? This could be as small and subtle as slight tap of your fingers, turn of your wrist, lifting of a limb, maybe your feet or hips or head will start to get into it…get into your mood with your body and then express it outward. Move into a shape that feels like your sadness or struggle. Pause to feel it…then move with the changing emotions as you give them space to live and breathe and release through your body. Make it a dance…a creative, curious exploration of what movements your mood wants to make. Express the emotions, witness how they show up in your body, and move through them. What do you notice?

Bonus: read this poem by Rilke (translated by Robert Bly) aloud to yourself.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

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Be the one to hold yourself up in your falling.

And for more support in the shifting season, sign up for my 7 Days of Self-Connection offering. It’s free.